Erik Spoelstra: The Man behind Miami Heat's Success

Erik Spoelstra: The man behind Heat's success

Erik Spoelstra: The man behind Heat’s success

Every off season is filled with various websites and newspapers ranking the best Guards, Forwards or Centres in the league. However, how many of us actually give a thought to the man behind the scenes? The man who makes the plays on the field?

Filipino-American Erik Spoelstra of Miami Heat is probably one of the most famous head coaches in the world of Basketball right now. He is after all, the head coach of the best team in the NBA. Make no mistake, most of the people know him because he coaches the big three – not because of his acumen, not because of his strategic thinking, not because of the plays he drew up. They know him because he coaches LeBron James.

Being a Heat fan, I have always noticed one thing in common among all the forums or websites I frequently visit.

“Anybody with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on his team can…”

Alright, hold it right there. Spoelstra is the brains behind the “Bron” (pun intended). One does not simply become a two time championship winning coach by just happening to be coaching the right team. In this article, we will look at what exactly Spoelstra has done to get the Heat to win the title twice in his 5 year reign as head coach.

Spoelstra was Pat Riley’s first and only choice to be his replacement. He took up the mantle of Head Coach in 2008 (He was 38 years old at the time). Since then, the Heat have gone into the post-season every season with them making it to the NBA Finals for the last 3 years in a row.

These are surely phenomenal statistics but what makes him that good a coach? Spoelstra or Spo as he is called by his fans, has an exceptionally high game sense. His grasp of the game is surprisingly good for a coach that young. He’s young, innovative and brings a lot of fresh and radically different ideas to the team’s drawing board.

The team which made it to the 2008 and 2009 finals had Dwayne Wade, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers as their best players. A superstar, a no. 2 draft pick and a second tier point guard were their best players. The sad part is, even when Spoelstra coached a team which had just one big name, he hardly garnered any attention.

Spoelstra is not afraid to make unpopular moves. Quite frequently, he gives the buzzer beaters or game winning shots to Dwayne Wade even if LeBron has had a better game. Spo is also quite adept at managing egos within the team. His locker room is filled with 3 giant egos, which naturally comes along with their talent – LeBron, Wade and Bosh.

To control and channel their egos into productive energy requires a high level of man management and tact. Remember Phil Jackson and his struggle to control Shaq and Kobe in the locker room?

His willingness to change, to adapt with the moment shows his flexibility. For example, in the NBA 2013 finals there were a few classic examples of his improvisation skills.

LeBron James, Head Coach Erik Spoelstra and Dwyane Wade

LeBron James, Head Coach Erik Spoelstra and Dwyane Wade

Miller had hardly played throughout the season while Battier had had quite a large number of minutes. During Game 2, Spo decided that Miller would make a more favourable impact on the game than Battier. Remember the scenario: Heat are the defending champions and they have just lost game 1 to Spurs. He gave Battier’s minutes to Miller and voila! Miller shot 100% from the 3 point line, scoring 9 points and he played more than satisfactory defense. His presence allowed the other players to focus on restricting Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.

It’s just one game though right? What’s the big deal? The big deal is, Spoelstra was facing Gregg Popovich, one of the best coaches in the league right now. Spoelstra did something which Popovich didn’t expect.

I quoted this example because it’s recent and has already received a lot of attention.

Spoelstra has never been a media hog. He’s soft spoken and doesn’t ask for the limelight. Although, in retrospect, I don’t think he’ll get any when his team features players like LeBron, Wade and Bosh. That being said, his two most vocal and loudest supporters are Wade and LeBron. They heap praises on him after every win, and defend him after every loss. Maybe it’s time for us, as fans, to take a leaf out of their book.

He was a coach who was on the verge of being fired two years ago. He had just signed LeBron, it was the 2010-11 season and the Heat were at 9-8. Most of the fans were clamouring for his resignation. However, the management stuck to him and within no time, Spoelstra had the fans on his coat tails.

A coach who takes blatant criticism light-heartedly, rises above it and leads his team to 2 championships within his 5 years is definitely worth way more respect than what he currently receives. I hope that in the future, Spoelstra gets the credit that he richly deserves.

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